BTW, I borrowed the header to this post from his 6th paragraph:
Workplace speech is not and has never been free, if free means the right to say whatever an individual pleases. This is true regardless of whether you like it or not. The reason for that is expressed in dozens of court cases and decisions, but the gist of it is that the worker and the employer each retain certain rights in the employment relationship while surrendering others. Neither party is permitted to pull down the other; the boss hires an employee, not a muted slave; the worker may not use the employment relationship to destroy the firm...McGrorty also lists URLs to related US public sector court cases.
If I understand McGrorty's last paragraph, he's suggesting that the outcomes of the ALA resolution won't really change reality. End of the day, courts will still uphold legal precedents.
I like the idea of my employer stating upfront what employees can or cannot say. Something like this: "Employees are empowered to exercise discretion in expressing their views on non-confidential professional and policy matters."
But come to think of it, do we really need a written statement like that? NLB frontline staff already exercise discretion when expressing views on professional and policy matters. Being in the public service, we get public enquiries all the time. Some of those enquiries broach on policy, like "Why does the library charge a reservation fee? Don't I pay my tax already?"
In days past, before staff went for Customer Service
Now, our staff take time to explain the rationale of the policies. But rote responses or standard replies only go so far. I often advise staff to try to explain a little bit more rather than hide behind policy statements. For instance, in addition to explaining that the reservation fee is to discourage the hoarding of books or the abuse of the reservation service, I'd also add that:
- The fee of $1.55 cost less than the average MRT ride. Plus, readers can choose their most convenient pick-up location at no additional cost. It's value for money since it saves the reader time from having to hunt for the item.
- Unlike other countries where they may not impose a fee for reservations, the Singapore system operates under a different context. For instance, our tax rates are way lower, so we can't compare such things.
OK, one could argue that in the above example, I am just doing a positive spin on the organisation policy so it doesn't really count. Well, let's say my alternative response is this:
Have I exercised discretion and tact by providing additional points? Yes, I would think so.
Back to the question -- Do we need a policy on Workplace Speech? I guess it depends. Overall, in the bigger scheme of things, I'd say the fewer the organisation policies, the better.
In today's work environment and in light of customer's expectations, we still need policies but unless it's those dealing with... I don't know... life-and-death issues or something that will impact very much on public-interest, whatever policies set should guide the employee but should not end up removing the employee's ability to make decisions. If not, you might as well put machines in place of humans.
[Tag: library policy, work speech]